the village, the young and sick are being taken nightly by wolves. Hunger
has made the animals artful and bold. They leap through windows. They
use their paws and snouts to pop the latches off of doors. With long,
yellow teeth, they slash screens and cram infants down their throats like
cocktail olives. Mothers try to protect their children; brothers cry for
their stolen sisters, but the nights are hot, endless and hot, and to
nail the windows shut, to bring the cots in from the sleeping porches,
would be to imagine themselves besieged, hostage, vulnerable to attack
from monsters, beasts, the shadows in the woods. When everybody knows
the wolves are called to the village by the curses of witches.
The ugliest of the villagers have already
been hanged. Those without families and property have been quartered and
dragged. Also, those with property but with families who are no longer
fond of them have been quartered and dragged. Those who were always complaining
about the business of their neighbors and always poaching loquats from
their neighbors’ loquat trees have been forced to drink beer until their
bladders’ explode. The ones with scabs on their lips have been shot, as
well as the ones who played loud rock and roll and kept a yard full of
Camaros up on blocks. A group of tedious investment bankers have been
put into fenced camps or sent on tropical vacations.
There have been more deaths by angry mob
than by the wolves themselves. Despite this ousting of the wretched, the
wolves continue to come. A little girl runs into a grassy field to relieve
herself just after sunset. Two days later, a search party finds her body
where it has been dragged into the woods, the organs eaten.
The town elders hold a meeting. They decide
they have no alternative but to put the children out. They can protect
them no longer and besides, inside their little bodies are clockwork hearts,
ticking off the lives of their parents. Their hair is blonde and their
eyes are fixed, glassy and cobalt blue as though they’ve dropped from
a lousy, Technicolor horror movie: who wants kids like this anyway? And
they’re happy, always, insanely happy and singing that same fucking Alanis
Morissette song over and over. Little, happy, blonde, harmonizing creeps
marching in unnatural unison: left, right, left, go their patent leather
shoes. They march through the streets on their way to school, waiting
The children are deposited in the woods.
Like a black fly in your Chardonnay, they chant. In the woods they quiet
down and sniff at their surroundings like housecats. Some of the smaller
ones eat their sandwiches right away. A few of the boys trade dessert
cakes back and forth: a Ho Ho for a Ding Dong, a Ding Dong for a Snoball,
and so on. After a few hours they drop to the ground and start to graze.
One of the big boys is licking dirt. They’re not hungry, exactly, but
they’re fond of eating, and when they stop, one or all of their body parts
The moon rises, glazing the children in
cool blue light. During the weekdays, they have not been nearly as happy
as they are now. They have parents, including The Perry Family, The Richlens,
The Richies and The Vlanoskys. These people feed the children, wash them,
put their hair in scrunchies, ensconce their feet in Velcro-tabbed sneakers,
strap tiny backpacks upon them, spread sweets and nut butters between
sliced bread and wrap it all up in plastic film. They hug and kiss, they
buckle up. Nonetheless, a certain wildness remains inside the children;
when they bind together in flocks the ones in the center become inflamed,
while those on the periphery stand still as statues, or else raise up
on one foot and lift their noses to the wind. They like these conditions
better than the sheetrocked houses. It smells better.
Around midnight some of the boys attempt
to mate, but they’re prepubescent and awkward. The girls stand around
and watch or else paint their nails with Tinkerbell nail polish. They
lick the parts of their own bodies they can reach and roll in the dirt,
scratching. Kim is in love with Rob but Rob started dating Samantha during
the time that Kim had taken up with Pete Vlanosky. Samantha is in love
with Rob but Rob is back with Kim, at least sometimes, and they’re all
sleeping together in a heap for warmth. They all turn and shuffle in a
respiring mass, tuned to one another even in sleep.
In the morning, they resume grazing immediately
after they open their eyes. One of the girls traps a mouse and devours
it on a whim. She likes it so much she teaches the others how to administer
the killing bite. A fine group of mousers they are, and by the fall of
evening they’ve formed hunting parties. They lick one another’s muzzles
and bare their yellow teeth. They howl at the sky and run down an antelope.
By late autumn, much of their prey has migrated, and they expand their
habitat to include the village. People are tough and stringy but nearly
blind in the dark, and when they run, they don’t run very fast.